In December, a young Christian couple were killed and a Christian man kidnapped, heightening fears about the increasing threat to the Christian community now US troops have left the country.
Adnan Elia Jakmakji (34) and his wife Raghad al Tawil (25) were shot dead in their car on December 13. Their two sons were wounded as gunmen sprayed the vehicle with bullets. The family was ambushed in Mosul, northern Iraq, by an armed group.
The previous day, Sermat Patros, a 29-year-old Christian man, was kidnapped from his family’s home furnishings store in Ankawa in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. He was held for three days, during which his captors demanded a $500,000 ransom. Sermat, who was blindfolded and tied down during his ordeal, was rescued by a SWAT team on December 15 to the great relief of his 21-year-old wife Amal and the local Christian community.
The kidnapping followed an outbreak of anti-Christian violence in Kurdistan which erupted in the city of Zakho after Friday prayers on December 2. Hundreds of Muslims, apparently incited by the imam’s sermon, headed from a local mosque to businesses owned by Christians and Yezidis, another minority group; they set alight 25 properties, including shops and hotels. At least 30 people were injured, and several million dollars’ worth of damage was caused. The mob swelled to more than 3,000 and moved on to attack Christian property in three other areas.
The following morning, more than 100 people, mainly youths, threw stones at a church and homes belonging to Christians in Almansoria. On December 5, leaflets were put on the walls of the burned shops threatening the owners with death if they reopened them.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said on December 3 that instability in the region was unacceptable and that a special committee will investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Thousands of Iraqi Christians have moved to Kurdistan to escape anti-Christian violence in other parts of the country; this region is increasingly looking less of a safe haven for them.